'Sellafield would be a coup for terrorists' - crime chief warns of terror threat as he battles for police funding

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Sellafield Nuclear site in Cumbria. Photo: Phil Noble/PA
Sellafield Nuclear site in Cumbria. Photo: Phil Noble/PA
12 September 2017 1:01PM

Crime chief Peter McCall has warned Cumbria's police force must retain ALL of its government funding to ensure the county is not seen as a soft target by terrorists.

The county's police and crime commissioner said nuclear decommissioning site Sellafield, on the west coast, would be considered 'a coup for terrorists', adding it is one of the reasons the constabulary must not lose a penny in an expected shake up of the national police funding formula.

Mr McCall is now set to travel to Whitehall for crunch finance talks with ministers where he will present the case for the Cumbria Police budget to be left intact.

In an exclusive interview, he said: "I will absolutely resist any cut at all to Cumbria Police's funding.

There's nowhere in the country now where you could say 'it won't happen here'

 Peter McCall, Cumbria's police and crime commissioner.

Peter McCall, Cumbria's police and crime commissioner.

"In my opinion the number of police officers in the county now is simply at an irreducable limit.

"I'm not prepared to contemplate cutting their numbers.

"We have all seen the tragic terrorism events across the country this year. Cumbria is not immune to that.

"We also mustn't forget we've got a very big strategic target here in Sellafield and that would be a great coup for terrorists.

"There's nowhere in the country now where you could say 'it won't happen here'. That's the reality," he added.

Last month Cumbria's most senior police officer, chief constable Jerry Graham, warned his constabulary was "particularly vulnerable" under reforms to the way the Government funds police forces across the country.

 Chief Constable of Cumbria Jerry Graham.

Chief Constable of Cumbria Jerry Graham.

Mr Graham said: “Although policing was added to those public services protected from the worst effects of austerity, it does not exempt the constabulary from the need to make ongoing savings and efficiencies.

“Cumbria is also particularly vulnerable to the impact of a new police funding formula planned to be introduced from 2018/19, which has the potential to have a detrimental effect on the resources available to police the county.”

A proposed re-working of the funding formula two years ago left Cumbria facing a cut of £26m to its budget over four years.

However the threat, which would have decimated officer numbers and forced the closure of some police stations across the country, sparked public fury and the launch of a campaign by CN Group, was averted at the eleventh hour.

Mr McCall, a former army officer who was elected to the post of police and crime commissioner for Cumbria last year, will travel to the capital on September 18 for a meeting with ministers.

He added: "The government have not said when the formula will be reviewed. We have no timetable for it at the moment.

"But I'm always concerned about the money. I will be fighting as hard as I can on this."


Force must identify back office savings, crime commissioner claims

Cumbria's police force must look to save money within its back office functions, the county's police and crime commissioner has said.

Peter McCall made the claim as he described the 'new reality' facing constabularies across the country as they attempt to balance their books while maintaining vital front line resources.

Mr McCall has already made savings in his own office by opting not to replace Stuart Edwards, chief executive and monitoring officer for the police and crime commissioner, when he retires later this month.

The move will save £81,000 over the next year.

A separate arrangement already in place has seen the role of chief finance officer for the commissioner's office shared with Cumbria Police.

Mr McCall said: "We are a smaller, rural force.

"We can't have every specialism out there so we are looking at ways of using tech better and smarter.

"The force will also need to look at everything it does in its back office. We have to be prepared to look at different ways of working.

"I have done this in my own office already and saved quite a lot of money."


Police cuts: What's happened so far?

:: In 2015 a re-working of the way police forces are funded by the government saw Cumbria Constabulary facing cuts of £26 million over four years.

:: Chief constable Jerry Graham warned this could leave the county able to provide a 'blue light service' only.

:: However the budget threat was later called off due to a 'calculation error'.

:: In May this year, the army was drafted in to help 'maintain Sellafield's security levels' following the tragic terror attack in Manchester.

:: Last month it was revealed the cash-starved force has closed 18 stations or police posts across Cumbria in five years in a bid to balance the books.

:: Chief constable Jerry Graham has warned a new shake up of the police funding formula left Cumbria 'particularly vulnerable' to cash cuts.

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